If I Weren't Broke. A Fun Look At Being Poor.

We've been under serious Adult Stress in the way of budgeting, so natch the only thing I can think about is money-money-money stuff I would do and buy if we had disposable income. 

Not if we were rich. I'm not even talking Oprah dollars. I would be an asshole rich person I'm pretty sure, so if the universe knows what it's doing at all, this will never happen. 
Found the image of the lady at violetcrownct.com
However, if I blackmailed someone into giving me a good-paying job, or the more likely thing occurred and we won a small lottery, I would make it my mission to prove that Money Can Indeed Buy Happiness, ending the debate once and for all. 

I would write a big, douchey book on all the ways money makes people happy and it would be a hilarious how-to-slash-pop-up-slash-horror-sex-slash-dramedy, and I would self-publish and the cost would be super low. You would read it again and again and it would change your life. So you should probably start wishing this happens for me, too, because you will love this book.

Here is a list of things that money could buy, just off the top of my head right now, that would make us happy.

Happiness List

Every parent needs a break, especially with toddlers. Big pharma, and cheap liquor stores, know this. There's no 'village' to help each other where I live, and my sisters' children are all grown and away starting their own lives, so I need to find people to pay to help us. 

Going Out To Dinner
I never gave a crap about this before having 3 kids. For me, restaurants are a hassle because like Sally before she met Harry, it used to take me 10 minutes to order a sandwich.
NO mayo, ever
All sauce on the SIDE
Extra onion
Add sliced tomato
My Celine Deon heart could go on, but these are the essentials. I feel like such a big fat Fanny Pack listing all of this stuff, I was always certain someone would marinate my food in a bodily fluid. It was just easier to make my own food so it's not disgusting right.

Now add in all of the various food issues of all my children, and just planning a meal becomes maddening. Being a Mother of 3 kids is like being the only employee in a busy, horrible restaurant. And they don't even tip.

Being able to tell some poor slob, I mean wonderful waiter or waitress, all of these things so they can handle a meal, is a mini vacation. And these days I am not as picky about restaurant food. At all. If YOU are making food for ME? I'll take it. Whatever it is.
from dailymail.co.uk
People talk about traveling to new places, but I say why go somewhere if you don't how fun it is? You know you can fly to Vegas for 3 days and have a great time. Vegas is great for what ails ya. Unless what ails ya is a gambling addiction, then definitely don't go to there. 

I'm too cheap to be a big gambler, so I thought I would hate Vegas, but it's like New Orleans in that every person there has ONE goal in mind: FUN. You can wear whatever, find whatever, everyone's in a good mood, probably because they're drunk, but whatever. Walk all over the town and find a fun rich person. Or just put a quarter in a slot machine and order a drank. You can't not be happy when you're in a town full of people with access to free drinks.

Those Expensive Movie Theaters With Booze
I've never been a big goer of movie theaters. Or do you say 'fan'? Putting aside the cost, the seats are too close to gross strangers the general public, too close together, the only decent food is popcorn and worst of all: No booze. Then you're not supposed to bring your own. 
What the hell, America? 
Is this your idea of Liberty and the pursuit of happiness? 
Is that what our forefathers came all that way in a tiny, overcrowded ship with no bathrooms for? 
Industrial buckets full o'popped corn? 
I'm corn-fused. 

Enter: Boozey theaters.

We have a medium-priced theater about 20 minutes away that serves booze, but it's really difficult to hear the movie over rowdy people ordering buckets o'beer, and then clanking them together inexplicably. Also the wenches slinging those buckets ask everyone to pass them down like we're at the worst ball game ever. It's one step above trying to watch the news on that tiny television in the bar. Not happening.
I would much rather watch TV here, thanks. from gonola.com
Then I heard about these fancy Gold-something-or-other theaters from my sister. This sounds a little like Willy Wonka meets the movies:
Wait staff comes right to your table; 
You sit in comfortable recliners:
They bring you GOOD food and booze, like real food that deserves to be written up on a menu.
from windycitylive.com
I am actually afraid to go, because if there is one thing I've learned about myself it's that I can become Princess Douchepurse really quickly. When you've never had nice things, it's easy to be poor. But once my doughey hams sit somewhere comfy, it's hard to go back. If I go to these theaters, I may never again be able to go to the $3 theater by our house. 

It's the kind of theater that has last year's movies, and you HAVE to be early, just to find the 8 seats in the whole theater that don't have a spring sticking out. I'm not up on my tetanus shots. Combine that with my borderline narcolepsy, and a nice cheap movie becomes Ground Zero for Hep-C. Or whatever. However, they don't care if you wear a trench coat containing a case of beer and a whole pizza, so other than Harry Potter or Star Wars movies? That dump is my jam for movies.
Plus it has Personality. Personality goes a long way. from moviecitynews.com
Normal Grocery Stores
I'm not even talking Whole (Paycheck) Foods. I would love to be able to shop at regular old everyday grocery store, that takes freaking credit cards, and has fruit that last for more than 2 days when you buy it. Not even every week, just once in awhile I would love to not to have to back to the grocery 2-3 times a week because the frickin' grapes are frickin' moldy again, even though we JUST frickin' bought them. 

Don't get me wrong, I love Aldi, our discount grocery store. It's part of what makes it possible for me to stay home with my kids right now. Prices are half of regular grocery stores. If you have never had to shop at a discount grocery store, I legit hate you a little bit right off the bat. Sorry, just being real. Being poor sucks balls full time and it makes you angry. Even Buddha would have been pissy if he had to shop at Aldi.

You don't always find the same things, you have to bag your own groceries and if you forget your bags, you have to pay for their bags. You also rent the carts for a quarter, and they are outside, so if you forget to bring a quarter, you're kind of fudged. You not only have to go inside first, go through the maze of the WHOLE STORE to get to the checkout, because you cannot just walk straight to the check-out. Oh no. This shit is all locked down like a prison maze. One way in, one way out. 
I guess the thought behind this is that if someone tries to rob the store, you can see the robber going all through the aisles and call for help and then train yourself in the ancient art of ka-ra-tey in the time it takes for any potential thieves to get to the checkout. 

Then when you finally get there, you usually have to wait in a long-ass line, because most of these people are not going to let you go before them. They do not care if you just need change of a dollar, they're in a hurry too, always. You don't know them. You don't know their life. 
from flickr.com

Also, there is NEVER more than one aisle open. For real. I'm not being dramatic here. They only have THREE check-outs, and only ONCE in my entire life, on a full-moon Saturday of a holiday weekend, did I see TWO lanes open. The checkout lines were still down the aisles.

You also better have some cash because even though they just recently started taking debit cards? They do not have an ATM. You can ask someone for a quarter, if you're feelin lucky Punk. If you happen see someone who doesn't look like they would shank you.

The combination of these things makes for the most sad and crabby group of shoppers you can assemble without giving out government cheese. I mean, *I* shop there. One of my loftiest goals is to one day shop there because I want to, not just because I have to. 

Okay, now I'm poor sad. I mean American poor, where we bitch about not having the latest iPhone, and only having BASIC cable. We never miss meals or anything, but this post has taken a sharp Southern turn. I can't even think of anything more "luxurious" than a normal grocery store. That's just sad. 

I'm not sure whappened but this is more depressing than an episode of Maury. I can hear the audience boo-ing from their folding chairs. All I can think of is dialing S-U-C-C-E-S-S for the Harlinshar Institute and seeing if I can get me a J-O-B, gurl.

What would you do with a small lottery winning? Please tell me your list would be more fun than this.


I Am Not A Murderer, and I'm NOT Harboring Fugitives.

Not on purpose, anyway.

This uncharacteristic twice-in-one-week post is a just a Crime Update on the telenovela going down in Comfytown lately. 

First, a follow up to Monday's wondering whether I murdered my neighbor or not, and then the latest drama in which I inadvertently harbored a wanted criminal from the police. Almost. And also not of my own free will. Swear.

First, the neighbor situation: She is ALIVE. 

I am not a murderer, nor a wedge-driver between families or relationships. Not today, America. Not this day.

My neighbor is alive! 

I saw her, I spoke to her. She is alive and well. Well, she's alive and has no visible signs of 'beating about the face', or anywhere else. Thank you for that hypothesis on her disappearance, Husband.

I saw her and spoke to her at her house, she did not sound hysterical or in any mortal danger. She did seem very stressed out. The adjustment stage with her son is, these are her words, "...worse than she ever imagined." Sad face. 

However, now I can get down to the business of celebrating that I did not cause her death, or push her off the wagon, or any of those other horrible things I pontificated about in Monday's POST. That is a link if you're curious just how much I was freaking out about the situation. 
Spoiler: It was pretty hardcore freakage. 

So anyway, she and the kids and her mother-in-law were outside, with the kids in the kiddie pool. We waived and she waived back. I just started running over there, right THROUGH my next-door neighbor's driveway and yard, more excited than the beginning of The Courtship of Eddie's Father. If you have no idea what that is, picture this.
Except add another kid, and I'm not Bill Bixby.
Nice crotch bulge though, Hulk.
from sitcomsonline.com
I had no idea what I was going to say except I kept internally repeating:
'do not say "YOU'RE ALIVE" do not say that do not say that do not say that do not say that do not say that do not say that.'

When we got there it was an awkward second of me STOPPING running and grinning like a freak, and then immediately trying to appear all casual-like. I did that thing with my chin and asked: 
"So hey, how's it going?"

She looked exasperated. The kids were splashing around the pools, yelling like....like a couple of kids in a kiddie pool. That's just it's own thing, needs no simile or metaphor.

Her adopted son is not adapting or learning English at the rate they anticipated, he's going to some specialists. They see signs of autism, but it's hard to tell right now. 

In the meantime his new sister is trying to beat the crap out of him. Just like a biological sister, but with a twist of professional kickboxer. This girl does NOT like the competition for Mom and Dad's attention. 

Those problems seem insignificant compared to teenager issues, I still couldn't imagine the stress (and ohmygods the NOISE) without being able to have a drink. Of course I didn't say that. Out loud. Hopefully I didn't say it with my eyes, because just like Shakira's hips and occasionally my mouth, they don't lie. Not well anyway.

I did tell her to call me if she needed anything. I mean like HELP, not like a drink. I can be supportive. If I have to. Crap, incidentally how do you help a stressed-out parent without booze? I got nothin.

She did not mention the wine that the husband made me take back, and I'm not about to bring that up. Especially with the MIL there. I'm just so relieved she sounds okay.

Stressed, but physically healthy. I am not a murderer!


You know what this is a good time for? That wine I was told to keep....
That celebration was cut short.

As I was still in my neighbor's back yard, I got a text from my son, Tinny. He wanted to come "visit us." I told the kids and the MIL, because the Mom went inside for something, that in a few minutes we had to go pick up Tinny. 

Get this. The MIL said, like such a typical Mother-in-Law:
"I thought you said he was living with his dad." Really?

Yes, he has been living with his dad, but I couldn't exactly keep him from visiting us (could I?) I couldn't think of a reason, so I picked him up. He did play with his sisters, and about an hour or so later he of course wants to go talk to some friends. Because OF COURSE HE DOES.

Anyway, this is where it gets weird. 

About an hour after that, we're getting ready to go for a walk when a young man jogs past us, through our driveway and yard, not by the street/sidewalk/designated PUBLIC area, but up by the door, right by US. As he is going past he asks if my son is home. He was not. The kid kept jogging and the next thing I know he's gone.


Where did he go?

I walk around the house, maybe he was going to knock on my son's window or something? A kid did that once when Tinny didn't answer his phone. As I'm walking around the house, I see a police car. 
A-ha. The officer asks me out the window:
"Did you see a kid run past here?"

Indeed I did. I just did. I tell him I think he went that way, and point down the street. We're one house from a corner, maybe he turned down the street and I missed it ?

In the meantime I get a hunch. I read and watch a lot of crime fiction. I go to our backyard. Nothing there. However, we have a shed that no longer locks, and my son and his friends used to sneak smokes in there back when I still had the energy to give a shit about him smoking before they turned 18. 

I run up to the shed, not sure why, open the door and THERE IS A PERSON IN THERE. I didn't even think. This is MY HOUSE and I will protect my family. 
How, exactly? I didn't have time for details like that. I mean, this was a kid, right?

In my most lioness voice, I said:
"WHO are you and what are you doing in my shed?!" Just like I knew what I was doing. 

He looked skerred. Not of me, just scared.
"I'm Vic's brother, remember me?"

I did not.

Relevant background info:
Vic is the friend of my son who lived with us for awhile. His parents are homeless, his mother is.....I don't even know. Determined to remain homeless is the only thing I know she is for sure. Not all there mentally is another. The minute Vic turned 18 she had no use for him. They kept moving around Chicago, and not always telling him where they were. He was still in high school, in the suburbs, but he was 18 so his mother wasn't getting assistance money for him, so he was on his own. In high school.

I mean, I did remember Vic having an older and a younger brother, the younger one was over a few times but it was years ago. He would have been 11 or 12, he's about 16 now. 

The younger one wasn't like Vic. He was trouble and would never talk to me or let me help him. When trouble went down, and it went down, he was the first to run off by himself. This is what he learned from his parents. Leave. Run. Look out for yourself. Survive. 

Now he's in my shed.

"And what are you doing in here?" I pretended to demand.

"Hiding." He said honestly. 

It took some back and forth of clever dialogue like this to ascertain that he had "got into it" (a fight) with some dudes and the cops came, and he ran. Why? A reasonable person might ask. After awhile, he said he was on probation and didn't want to get in more trouble. 

He kept asking to go inside the house. I wanted to get the story. Why are you so afraid to talk to police about a fight? I wasn't just going to hide this kid. Yes, he's a kid and I knew this kid vaguely from the past, and that's why I wanted the information. I didn't know why he was running, other than because he's a dumb kid. 

I told him he needed to straighten out the situation. The police weren't going to just stop looking for him. I explained the concept of Harboring Fugitives and how it's ILLEGAL and whatnot. I know. I'm such a Judgey McMomJeans like that. As I've stated in the past, being Mom tends to suck the adventure right out of your soul in matters like this.

He wanted me to call his brother, Vic. Okay, I could do that. 

He wanted to wait for him inside the house. I could NOT do that. 

I have been around this sort of drama my whole life. (Can I be done now, btw Life?) One thing I've learned is when in doubt, go with your gut. I could not hide this kid from the police in my house.

Especially not without the whole story. He wasn't having that, so he started looking around nervously. While I was leaving a message for his brother, he took off running again. My husband came around to the backyard, finally. Way to protect, btw brah. Kidding. 
Mostly. He did stay with the kids and I can take care of myself, so he lives.

After I left Vic a message, I caught him up and we caught a glimpse of the kid running through the neighbor's yard, flipping fences and panicking. I noticed a back-door neighbor on her 2nd level deck, holding a phone like she was filming the whole incident with a camera phone. 

That is what my neighbors are good for, taking pictures and not freaking helping. NEVER HELPING. Jerkoffs. 

I know, I know, if you're not used to this shit, it's scary.

Eventually the police caught the kid because we live in the suburbs and there are only so many places to go. I called my son, who seemed genuinely surprised at the situation and now he wanted the full story. Oh sure, just as soon your friend's brother writes me a long love letter explaining it because we're BFF now. I don't HAVE the whole story, that's why I'm calling you! I told him what I know.

He called Vic, maybe he would answer his phone if he saw it was my son calling, or maybe he was working. I didn't hear anything else until later that night when Vic called me. He said he was sorry (he breaks my heart) because he's polite, and he explained some things. 

His brother Mike was in trouble, he was on probation but because his parents are still homeless and keep moving from place to place, Mike keeps missing court dates and whatnot. Some genius somewhere decided to put him on House Arrest, but this doesn't work well for nomadic people, as you may imagine if you have half a brain. 

Mike, under the excellent parental example he's given, decided to CUT his House Arrest ankle bracelet off. THIS is why he's been running from the police. Because he's a kid, and he has no one to tell him what a stupid idea that is. 

My heart is broken. I don't know how to help. I want to help Vic, who at least has a good heart and a good head on his shoulders. He feels way too responsible for this. Vic is only 19 and has been on his own for over a year. He has been trying to help Mike, who will not listen to him, but he also has his own stuff he has to do. Like work alladamntime. He had 3 jobs not long ago when I spoke to him, because none of the places could give him the hours he needed. 

Mike is doing his own thing, like any teen in this situation would, and not listening to anyone. I as an adult have never known how to help this kid, how could he know? Vic, I can help. Though Vic is taking care of himself rocking being an adult. He's in a program, he's working. He tried to take classes at a community college, but it was too much right now. He's doing what he's supposed to. He has a place to live, and people he's listening to, getting his life on track. Mike? I don't even know. I'm not equipped for that situation. Clearly.

I feel a lot of guilt about not being able to help him. This particular situation? Not a lot I could do. In the past though? I don't even know what I could have done. I can't help thinking that maybe if I helped this kid in some way, he wouldn't be in this place.

Maybe I just didn't want to help this kid because I always suspected he was one of the kids that stole my husband's car when we were out of town. That's a whole other story, but No, we never knew that for sure. So why do I feel sooo guilty? Maybe I just feel bad and I am assuming it's guilt. Long story.

If he wanted my help, if he would work with me like Vic did, I would be happy to help him. I felt guilty that Vic lived with us and Mike didn't. I wanted to help him, too, but he was younger, he was with his parents. His parents weren't abandoning Mike. I wasn't trying to be a kidnapper or anything. The school never would give me the whole story. I understand, I didn't need it. I did what I could. Now I don't even know what I could possibly do. I'm over my limit on drama right now. I'm Jar Jar Binks: "My give up."

Anyway, this post is long enough. This is what happened. 

Just wanted everyone to know that:
1. I am not a murderer.
2. I did not harbor a fugitive in my shed. Not willingly. And not for long.

I have no idea what will happen now. Vic doesn't either, but he's kind of relieved this stressful 'running' part is over. Hopefully Mike will learn a lesson to deal with things instead of running. He had been trying to tell Mike to go straighten out the situation. 

It got to the point where Mike would see a police car and just start running and hiding. He lives in the city with his parents, where they don't have time to chase kids on probation. 

Chicago is a horror show right now. Last weekend alone we had forty shootings. Not four. FOUR-O-as in OMFG. I am not equipped to deal with that either. Nor is the mayor apparently. I don't know the whole story so I won't get into it, but something needs to be done. This is not right. 

I know the heat and humidity drives people crazy, but this is no excuse. This is a heavy place to leave it, so please PLEASE watch this video from the good ole 80's for "Goin Crazy From The Heat."

At least the intro, it's hilarious. They talk about Honor Students, "Yes your Honor, no your Honor..."


I Just Want To Know If I Killed Her

That title seemed dramatic when I started this post a week ago. At this point, it’s true. 

I just really need to know if my neighbor is alive and well. At least alive. At some point I will have to take my husband’s advice, suck it up and go there and ASK to see her, to talk to her. That may be the only way to know for sure.

There could be a perfectly logical explanation for why I haven’t seen her since that day. I’ll give you the whole story and maybe you could tell me what that would be.

I met a new neighbor a few weeks ago, and I may have inadvertently murdered her. Or not. There is no proof that I did. Is there? No. Of course not. You have to have intent for it to be murder, right? Or motive. Are those the same?

Anyway, where is she?

I’ll tell you the back story. You tell me what you think. Like I said, there could be a perfectly logical explanation why someone just completely disappears for weeks after spending a couple hours with me. Sure, she could just be avoiding me. I wouldn't even be surprised. But she also? Could be in need of help. Let me explain.

The story begins 4 weeks ago now, and I wish I remembered exactly how it went down, but that was many, many beers ago and my memory is sketchy at best. Sometimes I remember a scene clearly, usually I only get bits and pieces. 

Why? Who knows. 
Booze? Hypothyroid Brain Fog? Sleep deprivation? 
Holes in my brain from all the combinations of anti-depressants and sleep aids in my 20’s? 
My brain is too full with trying to keep the Game of Thrones characters straight? 
Most likely a perfect shitstorm of all.

What I remember goes like this.

I met a new neighbor 4 weeks ago, from 2 houses down. After a few times of waiving on our way out, or back into our house, she finally came over with her 5 yr old daughter and brought water balloons. 

We had a grand old time, the kids tore through the water balloons in record time, she made more, we had some wine and chatted for awhile. We got along really well, a rare occurence for me, almost like we were old friends. It was lovely. It started to rain, so she and her daughter went home, leaving behind their bucket and the water balloons. I promised to return them.

I had to go back to my Instagram to remember exactly WHEN I posted this picture. It was June 19, so an entire month ago.
From my instagram http://instagram.com/p/pcK8LSEFeO/?modal=true
Under the picture, I wrote: 
I met a new neighbor, she asked me HOW I have 3 kids and watch extra kids, so I showed her. Yeah, I like this one. #ThirstyThursday #wineoclock #drank”

Those hashtags mock me now. I probably just should have deleted that picture, before it winds up as Exhibit Whatever: Evidence for the prosecution, for the jury to examine. Like this post.

I don’t know if I did anything wrong. I don’t feel I did anything illegal or immoral, but aren’t prisons full of people who say that? Ignorance is not a defense. Wait, is it? I might need to know this.

Back to the story.

I finally returned their bucket last weekend. Well, we had been on vacation and doing projects around the house, and it’s no secret I’m socially awkward so I wanted to give it some space. Like that "no call or text for 3 days" rule that guys have after a date. But for neighbors.

In the bucket I put a bag full of items to Welcome them to the neighborhood, and also their new son. They were about to adopt a boy. She was nervous, she wasn’t sure how her daughter would adjust to the situation. Her 5 year old has a textbook case of “First and Only Child Syndrome.” She’s very high spirited....which is the nicest way I know to say bratty.

I mean like most American kids are bratty, not like dissecting animals in her bedroom bratty. She filled their bucket with water and dumped it right on her mom’s face, even though the mom said “You better NOT do that.” That’s the worst thing she did. Kids, right?

Anyway, in the bag I brought them snacks for the kids, paper, crayons, crafty-type things and 2 bottles of wine. We had shared half a bottle, and I wasn’t sure if she preferred red or white, so I got a bottle of both. I put something about having a drink when she’s ready on the note and included my phone number, telling her to call or text anytime for playdates, or just whatever.

It really just seemed like a nice gesture at the time.

I wish I could take it back. The note, at least.

When I dropped off her bucket with my gift bag, I had an awkward moment. To put it nicely.

Her husband answered the door, looking stressed. Understandable, two kids, summer, etc.

I explained who I was and handed over the bucket saying,
“Your wife left this in our yard awhile ago.” He looked confused.
“She did?” He looked at me like he didn’t believe me.
Why in seven hells would anyone make that up?

I shrugged it off and offered him the bag, explaining I wanted to Welcome them.

“Well, that’s nice of you,” he started, suspiciously eyeballing the items in the bag, and then, in a very frustrated voice:
“You can keep the wine.”

THIS is when, again, I totally locked up at a loss for words. 

Who tells someone to keep a gift? If you don't like it, aren't you supposed to just say,
"Thank you,"
and get rid of whatever it is on your end? AFTER the person leaves? Isn't that how re-gifting was born?

My brain started whirling like crazy, and I remembered in a flash a few days before when we were walking past their house on our evening walk. The Dad and daughter were on the driveway.

Walking past, we all waved to them. I was sure the daughter would remember us. She gave a small wave back and immediately looked to her Dad. The Dad just gave us an angry-ish look I didn’t understand.

Don't even act like I'm being a drama queen.
That is weird.
They just moved here. I waved to them. He did not wave back. 
I had never even said one word to this guy.
What the?
Was this guy just a jerk?
Are they all under great stress?

The boy they recently adopted was coming from a crowded orphanage from another country, and she was worried. He was 5 but more on a level of a toddler, she was told. He was never potty trained. He didn’t speak any English, and they didn’t speak any....His Language (whatever it is, can’t remember,) etc.

I immediately mentally traveled back in time to when she came over to visit, and we had wine. Why did I need to know that right then? I don’t know. Other than my natural reaction to any conflict is:

He tipped the bag toward me, as in ‘go ahead, take it,’ so I awkwardly lifted out both bottles, trying to force my brain to make words. I had no way of knowing which words would be inappropriate. Even if I had understood what was really going on, which I still do NOT, I've made it known my brain is not equipped to deal with serious adult situations.

I managed to stutter out, “I’m sorry,” and he offered nothing in return. Neither of us were sure what I was sorry about, and he added sourly,
“My wife’s in the club.”   

The Club? A wine club?
No, asshole, THEE CLUB. Bill William’s club, you big dumb dummy. And YOU GAVE HER WINE. All I could do was try to remember, did SHE asked for wine that day?
Or did I offer?
I know I don’t just offer BOOZE to people I just met out of the blue at 2:00 in the afternoon.

I learned this the hard way.

Many people don’t drink, because of reasons. They may be very religious, alcoholism may be a family issue, or it might be NONE OF MY GAHTDAMN BUSINESS.
I know, it’s always that last thing, and my curiosity doesn’t mean anyone owes me an explanation.

I knew I needed to say something, or at least get out of there.

I needed to stop thinking about all that other stuff right now, and a NEW fact that just popped into my head:
I have not in fact seen this woman OUTSIDE of the house since that afternoon. 3 weeks ago.

I willed myself back to that moment but all I could think of was apologizing again.
NO, don’t do that.
SAY SOMETHING. Say something neighborly, something vague, ANYTHING.

I said something like, 
“Okay, well we don’t want to take up too much of your time, just wanted to say Welcome…” My daughter said something, and he said something back to her about her shoes and the Minnie Mouse she was holding.

I started physically backing away, smiling lamely, and we quickly left, with me trying to balance two bottles of wine and awkwardly trying to also hold her hand. We had to go back in the street, even though we were only walking two houses over, because I didn’t want to walk through my next-door neighbors yard. I didn't want them to see me. 

Because everyone knows you’re invisible in the street, right? Idiot.

So that was last weekend, and I have hardly been able to think about anything else. I also haven’t heard, or seen, the woman yet. My husband half-joked that she’s not allowed to go outside because he beat her about the face for having a drink with me. He was joking. I hope. I keep wondering. 

Why isn’t she going outside with her kids? Or at all.

I see him outside. I see the kids outside. I see what looks like a Grandmother outside often with them. Did the Grandmother have to come because the Mom fell off the wagon? Or was Humpty Dumpty PUSHED, by a boozy neighbor?

WHERE is the Mom? 

How is she? Is she inside? Is she embarrassed to come out for some reason? Is she not allowed to come out? Is she unable to come outside for some reason? Did she have to go to rehab because of me? How long are people usually there, it’s a month right? DANG, what if I caused a mother of 2 children, one of whom was just adopted from another country, to be away from the family that needs her? Right when they need her the most.

What if I drove a wedge between their family and these children are now going to be children of divorce? What if after having wine with me they got into a big fight? OHMYGOD, did he kill her?! Could that be why I haven't seen her? Did I do that? 

No, if he killed her why would he make me take back the wine and say that bit about the club? To throw off suspicion. That's why. They just moved here. Maybe they had to move away from the old neighbors because they gave her booze and now....

I have tried, time and again to remember the day, and specifically the part of the day when I offered beverages. I know, she’s an adult, I don’t have the physical strength to force anything on anyone. I literally can’t force my 2-year-old to take a dropper full of ibuprofen, let alone an adult. I also need to not feel tremendous guilt about this.

When I think back about the day, I remember offering lemonade. I had been on a lemonade with real lemons kick lately. I like to show off to other adults that I’m a GOOD MOM, no high fructose corn syrup here folks, so I know I offered lemonade.

She must not have wanted that, next I went into the whole schpeal about soda. I can make several flavors of soda without prior notice thanks to our soda maker. I’m always screaming about this thing, I love it. But somehow I wound up serving wine.

I remember her saying, 
“What are you going to have?” 

I was thinking lemonade. I remember some talk about a drink. Like a drink drink, and I was surprised (so that means it was NOT MY IDEA, jurors) and I was scrambling to think what kind of booze we have. See, we don’t keep a lot of liquor around, because TEENAGERS, but we do have some. I hide it in refillable Capri-Sun bags in the freezer and get rid of the bottles. Then I have to try to remember what kind it is in there. 

RUM. I knew I had rum leftover from vacation. 
Rum and lemonade? That sounded delicious to me. 
She wasn’t going for it. 
We had a couple beers left from the vacation cooler.
Not digging it.
Wine? Women love wine.

I eventually remembered my husband bought me a mini wine refrigerator our first year here, for keeping white wine behind the bar. You can set it really low so it doesn’t use a lot of electricity, but you have wine that is at least not warm if you suddenly need wine. This is downstairs, buried and hidden under the bar, which works well so the teenagers (and so I) don’t DRINK all the wine. I knew there were a couple bottles in there.

Yes, somehow we wound up with wine. THIS is how I know it wasn’t my idea. I only drink wine socially. I like wine, it's delicious, but I drink it too quickly and get a headache. I prefer beer or hard liquor with a LOT of juice or soda, because I am not a fan of hangovers. Wine = hangover.

Though, we were good. We didn’t even finish half a bottle between the two of us. My husband and I finished the wine with dinner that night. She could not have had more than a glass. She wasn’t buzzed, or drunk, she was dealing with her daughter. Throwing a bucket of water in her face. That would sober anyone up, am I right? Okay, that’s not going to be funny if she turns up dead. Or in rehab.

There could be a perfectly good explanation. Maybe she didn’t even drink that glass of wine. Maybe she dumped it out, and was just being social? Okay yeah, I might be reaching here.

I just want to know she’s alive. Not only because I was thinking I would finally have a neighbor I got along with, but for her. Her kids. Her family.

I also don't want to be responsible for ruining a family.

Mostly, I just want to know I didn’t kill her.